by Brad Ryan / ABC
Environmentalists have used the start of the federal election campaign to rally for reef protection outside Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s office on Brisbane’s eastside.
They are calling for a halt to a proposed coal terminal expansion and associated ‘dredge dump’ at Abbot Point in north Queensland.
The group of about 15 protesters dumped a pile of mud outside Mr Rudd’s office this morning.
Federal Environment Minister Mark Butler is due to make a decision on the proposal this week.
His office says the official start of the election campaign will not delay the decision.
The expansion would require dumping three million cubic metres of dredge spoil at sea.
But it has strong local support, with more than 600 people rallying in Bowen to show their support for the plan earlier this month.
Groups such as the Bowen Business Chamber and Whitsundays Marketing and Development have described it as critical for the region’s economy.
But Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Felicity Wishart says the Great Barrier Reef is under threat.
“It’s a $6 billion tourism asset – it generates 60,000 jobs,” she said.
“We want the reef to be an election issue where all politicians from all sides stand up and protect it.
“We know that the dumping of dredge spoil leads to damage to seagrasses, which is the important habitat to dugongs and turtles.
“We know that it damages the reef and we know that the reef is already in poor condition.
“It’s been downgraded just in the last couple of weeks by the Minister, by the Department of Environment, saying that its health has gone from moderate to poor.
“We can’t afford to continue to put more stress on the reef.”